Amniotic Band Syndrome

Key Points:


Although known under many different names, amniotic band syndrome (ABS) or constriction band syndrome includes a broad grouping of congenital anomalies associated with constriction rings and amputations of limbs and digits along with central abnormalities that do not occur along known lines of embryonic development (Koskimies, 2015).  in 1832 (Goldfarb, 2009). The pathogenesis is largely believed to be heterogeneous with varied clinical presentation and familial heritability is rarely reported. The most common peripheral abnormalities are amputations of limbs or digits, constriction rings, and acrosyndactyly (Goldfarb, 2009).


Although one study found the prevalence to be as high as 8.3 per 10,000 births when miscarriages, stillbirths, and newborns were all included, other studies of just stillbirths or stillbirths and newborns have found the prevalence to be much lower, ranging from 0.55-0.9 per 10,000 (Cignini, 2012; Kawamura, 2009; Koskimies, 2015). 

Clinical Findings:

Limb or digit amputations, constriction rings, and acrosyndactyly are the most common abnormalities in amniotic band syndrome (Goldfarb, 2009). Scoliosis, clubfeet, leg length discrepancies, craniofacial abnormalities, body-wall defects, and other visceral abnormalities are also seen but are less common. The clinical manifestations are typically grouped into classic and non-classic categories. Classic findings are disruptions or deformations including amputations, constriction rings, amputation defects, and clubfoot. Non-classic defects are from malformation and include cleft lip or palate, body wall defects, and imperforate anus (Goldfarb, 2009; Kawamura, 2009). Distal limb deformities include syndactyly, acrosyndactyly, phalangeal hypoplasia, and amputation. 

The Patterson classification system is often used to describe clinical manifestations of amniotic band syndrome. Category 1 includes simple constriction rings. Category 2 involves rings with associated deformity of the distal part that may or may not include lymphedema. Category 3 involves the rings with acrosyndactyly and is further broken up into three types based on extent of web formation between fingers. Category 4 includes patients with intrauterine amputation due to the extent of the constriction (Kawamura, 2009).

Imaging Studies:

The mainstay of imaging evaluation is the prenatal ultrasound, and this is the basis of diagnosis as well. On ultrasound, defects can be seen as large structural abnormalities or constriction bands may interfere with a fetus’ typical movements.  ABS is usually diagnosed at the end of the first trimester or beginning of second trimester. If fetal surgery is being considered or ultrasound findings are not definitive, magnetic resonance imaging may be used to further evaluate the bands and any secondary deformities (Barros, 2013). 


Treatment options are almost all surgical in nature, ranging from limb-sparing release of bands to cosmetic repair. Typically, if a band is superficial it is simply observed unless it impedes venous or lymphatic drainage and becomes symptomatic. Deep bands carry an increased risk of vascular disruption and potential limb-threatening constriction. These are treated surgically with circumferential Z-plasty or W-plasty (Kawamura, 2009). Surgical reconstruction may also be pursued for patients with syndactyly, acrosyndactyly, or digital hypoplasia in order to improve function. Severe bands can be treated as soon as a few days after birth, while others can be addressed on an elective basis if ischemia of the limb is not a concern. Many surgeons prefer to do a two-stage band release technique to help preserve distal vascular flow with a 6-12 week interval. For acrosyndactyly, surgery is recommended at six months to one year of age to allow for the best longitudinal growth possible (Kawamura, 2009). Following surgical treatment or in patients with limb defects, prosthesis fitting and intense physical therapy are vital to provide the child with the most function possible (Barros, 2013). 


Most severe complications result from untreated, severe constrictions that result in limb ischemia, necrosis, and eventual osteomyelitis necessitating a more significant amputation. With surgical treatment, there can be disruption of the vascular and lymphatic flow to the distal segment, which is why many surgeons prefer to treat these in a staged manner as described above (Kawamura, 2009). Along with the deformities, many patients with this condition unfortunately are miscarried, or are born preterm or at low birth weight (Barros, 2013). However, depending on the extent of the disease, many patients are able to live full lives and achieve great success. One such patient, Shaquem Griffin, played football as a linebacker for University of South Florida and not only received an invite to the NFL scouting combine but also was named the 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the year. He accomplished all of this with only one hand as his left hand was amputated at the age of 4 years from ABS complications (Goodbread, 2018).

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